What dish Editor Sarah Tuck Thought of Boxer: Parnell's New, Slick Experiential Bar

September 16, 2020
What dish Editor Sarah Tuck Thought of Boxer: Parnell's New, Slick Experiential Bar

Our Editor Sarah Tuck visited Boxer, a new bar in Parnell inspired by Japanese listening bars and named after an album by The National. The bar is an offshoot of its neighbour Pasture, and Sarah found the experience to be an intricate delight.

If you have a special occasion coming up and you’re intrigued by the idea of innovative, bespoke cocktail and food matches, Ed Verner of Pasture fame’s new enterprise Boxer is the place for you. I was lucky enough to head along last week for a celebration with my eldest son, to experience the ritual that is drinking and dining at Boxer.

Boxer interior. Photo credit: Matt Quérée.

Ritual sounds a little full-on, but the Japanese-inspired design of this 11-seat experiential bar/restaurant does rather create an atmosphere of considered appreciation. In contrast to the sleek, pared-back interior, the music playing on the record player, curated by Ed and Hillary Eaton (Creative Partner and culinary and travel journalist) is buzzy and fun. Boxer is named after an album by American indie rock band The National, and at least some of the line-up every night is from one of their records – much to my delight.

Boxer interior. Photo credit: Matt Quérée.

The evening we visited it was cool and dark, so it was a welcome surprise to find a small log fire burning on the footpath outside, where we waited for the door to be answered. Stepping inside we were invited to take a seat at one of the two beautifully crafted blond wood islands and offered a warm towelette as a small bowl of fried seaweed with vinegar was placed in front of us. And so the evening began, five cocktails created for each of us, with the option to reject if they weren’t to our taste, accompanied by five exquisite small courses.

Photo credit: Frasher Chathman.

As the evening progressed Ed presented us with surf clams with spruce and green yuzu, clean and wonderfully textured; choy sum with bee pollen and pumpkin seed, somehow slightly chalky and fresh; 21-day aged day tuna sashimi; pork fat pretzels with cultured cream (glossy and full flavoured, and just as outrageous as they sound). Then my favourite – raw aged Pasture wagyu tartare layered with flavour and crunchy texture from a Pasture sourdough crumb – and my son’s, luscious eel yakitori; intense, rich and soft. Another joint pick was the insanely good Leche de Tigre – a Peruvian-style broth made using all of the bones, heads and trimmings from the fish used in the sashimi, a perfectly pitched bright and acid-forward few sips following the aged fish (which can be very rich and complex like aged meat).

Photo credit: Matt Quérée.

Each dish and cocktail was explained as the drinks were crafted right in front of us at the island. As you might expect from the food selection, these were no ordinary beverages – all are made using Boxer’s own in-house base spirit or in exclusive collaboration with local distilleries. Pushing the boundaries to the max, Verner has been using a device called a rotary evaporator for over a year. Traditionally employed in laboratories to extract solvents from lab samples, at Boxer it’s used to extract the aroma of ingredients and redistill them under vacuum pressure, creating flavoured distillates. 

We only had to make one drinks trade (with each other), as we sipped our way through Rosé Wine Spritz prepared with distilled jalapeño chilli (the rotary evaporator retains the jalapeño flavour without any spice); and cocktails like Carrot Tops with Grape and Celery Leaf; Saffron, Tomato and Coriander; Pineapple, Lavender, Kombucha and Smoked Cacao; and Seaweed and Grapefruit.

Photo credit: Frasher Chathman.

In addition to the five-course cocktail tasting menu, and available via the optional three-course pairing and à la carte menu, Ed and his team have created a lighter bar tasting menu that highlights fresh local seafood from the restaurant’s tank alongside unconventional protein cuts and ingredients that are not conducive to sister concept Pasture’s tasting menu format. Dishes will be prepared for guests at each island, with ever-evolving dishes to include Fried Seaweed and Chicken Skin; Surf Clams with Spruce; Month Aged Tuna Sashimi finished with vanilla seawater; Unagi Yakitori prepared over several days and served with the option of fresh truffle; and an Ossetra Caviar Doughnut with Wagyu-cured egg yolk and caviar. 

Huge congratulations to Ed and Hillary for creating an experience full of delight and discoveries in this minimalist, uber-cool new addition to Parnell.

Wednesday - Sunday
5.45 and 8.15 pm
(09) 300 5077
[email protected]
235 Parnell Rd, Parnell, Auckland, 1052